Mao Zedong (1893-1976)

  • Commonly known in China as the “Four Greats”: Great Teacher, Great Leader, Great Supreme Commander, Great Helmsman.
  • Was born into a modestly prosperous family—peasant class.
  • 1921: Attended First Communist Party of China in Shanghai.
  • Chinese Civil War (1926-1949)
    • Between right-wing members of the Nationalist Party (KMT) and the left-wing Communists
    • Both had been united under Sun Yat-Sen previously.
    • The Long March—escape of Mao and the Communists after defeat by KMT (9600 km journey) Perhaps this experience inspired him to say “A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous.”
    • Pause during the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945)
      • Communists and KMT worked against the Japanese and against each other
      • Mao consolidated his power over the Communist Party
  • 10 December 1949: Mao defeats last KMT force and establishes the People’s Republic of China.
  • KMT is exiled to Taiwan
  • Governance of China
    • Great Leap Forward—an attempt to collectivize farms and industry. Regarded as an enormous failure, causing massive starvation
    • Cultural Revolution-a purge of the Communist Party of intellectuals and “imperialists”. The Red Guard, largely a group of teenagers and college students, sought to eliminate counter-revolutionary forces from the Party. Mao praised their actions, saying, “Bombard the Party Headquarters!”

Political Philosophy

  • Peasants as the source of revolution. Unlike Marx and Lenin, Mao believed that the revolution would come from peasants rather than the proletariat.
  • Connection of Economic and Military Theory. Unlike Marx and Lenin, Mao believed that the revolution would need to be coordinated with the development of class consciousness. Instead of the emergence of conciousness and inspired revolt, Mao believed in a coordinated guerilla strategy:
    • Mobilization of the peasantry
    • Cell structure in rural bases
    • Eventual transition to conventional warfare
  • Mass Mobilization
    • “The revolutionary war is a war of the masses; it can be waged only by mobilizing the masses and relying on them.”
  • Indoctrination
    • “”[Our purpose is] to ensure that literature and art fit well into the whole revolutionary machine as a component part, that they operate as powerful weapons for uniting and educating the people and for attacking and destroying the enemy, and that they help the people fight the enemy with one heart and one mind.”
  • Sense of Eternal Revolution. Mao did not believe that the revolution could end once the revolution took place. The ruling party would constantly tempted to consolidate its power and work against the interests of the people. This thinking allowed for constant searching for “counter-revolutionary” forces, even among Mao’s most trusted advisors.
  • Three Worlds Theory. 1st World (USSR, USA) and 2nd World (those dominated by US, USSR) exploit the 3rd world. This 3rd world will be the source of communism.

Mao’s Legacy

  • Almost universally regarded as a master political and military tactician. Many Chinese feel that he became more important than the society, creating a cult of personality about himself.
  • Marred by failures of government. The Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward were tremendous failures that cost many lives
  • Alternatively, Mao was a leader who advanced China out of its “Century of Humiliation”. A nation with 80% illiteracy and a life expectancy of 35 in 1949, advanced to 93% literacy and a life expectancy of 70 by 1976.
  • Exportation of his philosophy to:
    • Shining Path of Peru
    • Nepal’s Maoist movement


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